China and India boldly … call for a negotiated end to the war in Ukraine!

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi called on Russia and Ukraine to “keep the crisis from spilling over” and from affecting developing countries.

“China supports all efforts conducive to the peaceful resolution of the Ukraine crisis. The pressing priority is to facilitate talks for peace,” Wang said. “The fundamental solution is to address the legitimate security concerns of all parties and build a balanced, effective and sustainable security architecture” …

“As the Ukraine conflict continues to rage, we are often asked whose side we are on,” said India’s Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar.

“Our answer, each time, is straight and honest – India is on the side of peace and will remain firmly there,” he said. “We are on the side that calls for dialogue and diplomacy as the only way out.”

As loyal readers here know, the war IS the negotiation. The Putinists have decided that Ukraine and Ukrainians are at best ephemeral categories invented by Russia, And what Russia hath given, Russia can take away. So if Ukraine and Ukrainians choose not to be eliminated or cowed into surrendering their identity to Moscow’s pleasure, what is there to discuss?

Treat this like a bully problem.

The Internet is replete with advice on how to deal with a bully, especially in the workplace. See eg this:

Bullies don’t negotiate; they make demands, they make threats, and they fight for them. They generally lack the modern skills of win-win negotiations that are driving today’s business decisions, healthcare, education, the settlement of legal disputes, and happy families. So don’t think of their demands as a form of true negotiations. It’s more like warfare. And you don’t want to give in to that.

High-conflict people are at war with the world around them and they go from relationship to relationship to relationship in which they try to dominate. But when they “win” by dominating, they can’t be happy. So they think they want more. It’s sad, because the people that give in to them feel terrorized on a daily basis. And the high-conflict person (HCP) feels unhappy because no one likes them.

The essence of bullying is a psychological sense of weakness. You think you can’t get your way by authority or persuasion, so you start being aggressive or obnoxious or sarcastic or petty or whatever instead. That unpleasant behaviour is intended to cover up your weakness by making you look (you think) strong.

Another way of thinking about bullying is that it’s an attempt to frame the dynamics of a situation on the terms the bully chooses. The bully’s demands or attitudes are intended to drive out any other claims to define what is happening in that moment.

One elegant way to push back against this is to ‘reflect back’ or ‘mirror’ the bully’s own words:

Violaine Galland, regional vice president at Scotwork North America, a negotiation training company, recommends this technique. Repeat back to the bully exactly what he said to you.

Galland shared an example from her years working on Wall Street. An executive she worked with was in an uproar: “If we don’t get this done, we are completely f—. If you and your incompetent team don’t get me the data by Wednesday, I am going to call your boss and get you fired!”

She calmly turned to the executive and said, “Sir, I understand that we are f— if we don’t get this done. If me and my incompetent team don’t get you the data by Wednesday, you’ll call my boss and get me fired. Did I get that right?”

That technique has the effect of confronting the bully head-on with his/her own words, and how ludicrous they sound when that is done.

Back to Ukraine. V Putin has launched Russian policy on a vast ‘re-framing’ of its relations with the rest of the world and in particular the former Soviet empire. Not only are Ukrainians a phoney, Nazi-like category. Russia assumes for itself the fundamental right under international law to invade that space, stage a faux referendum and then grab any nearby land that Russia thinks is sufficiently Russian.

It has been a major blunder to make these absurd claims just when the senior world was gathering in New York for the annual UN meetings. No wonder even the China and India leaderships are embarrassed at the Kremlin’s ravings. But then they fail at the first hurdle. They don’t dare articulate any principles at all for starting any ‘negotiation’.

It’s interesting if a bully and his/her victim agree to sit at a table, perhaps with a skilled mediator, and talk openly and in good faith about their respective ‘legitimate security concerns’. But that’s a very different conversation if the mediator is standing next to the bully pressing his/her foot down on the neck of the writhing victim. And in that latter case, what does it take for outside well-wishers to get the bully to stop using brute force when that force seems to the bully to be pretty successful? Surely at the least something pretty sharp to catch the bully’s attention?

And what if the bully’s victim has been fighting back hard after being attacked and now looks set to give the bully a serious thrashing? Might not that thrashing be a pretty effective way of making the bully think hard about future bullying? Is it wise or right to intervene now effectively to protect the bully from the consequences of his/her bullying by pressing for the fighting to stop in favour of talking? (Note: this was one angry complaint made by the Bosniacs/Croats before Dayton – the Bosnian Serbs were by then on the run, and by pressing that the war end in favour of peace talks the Americans/Europeans helped them keep their ill-gotten gains.)

Until India and China make it clear (if only privately) to Moscow that enough is enough and that they are going actively to side with Ukraine and most of the rest of the planet against Russia, are they doing anything more than making a silly noise when they talk about ‘dialogue’?